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One of the more intriguing aspects of jazz is the scope it allows for individuality. The personality of a soloist is reflected in his music just as surely as character is revealed by friendship. A jazz musician can be recognized by his phrasing, his tone, his choice of ideas; only the mediocre remain anonymous or borrow their style from greater men.
The jazz enthusiast learns to identify the musicians he admires after hearing only a few bars of their playing. It is the forceful authoritative soloists who make the earliest impression--men like Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, whose work is supremely individual.
Bechet¹s virile soaring phrases, his broad tone and wide vibrato belong to a man who has created some of the most brilliant music in jazz history. In the final analysis all artist must be judged by the quality of their imagination; the jazz soloist is no exception. Like Armstrong, Bechet is an audacious musician, his personality dominating any record on which he plays. He has grown up with jazz and his playing has matured, changing with the shifting pattern of the music but always unmistakably the individual voice of a great jazz artist.
Born in New Orleans in 1897, the son of Creole parents, Sidney Bechet was deputising for George bacquet in the famous Olympia band when he was only eleven years old. The details of his life are familiar to most jazz devotees. His wanderings over Europe; his early recordings with Clarence Williams; the years with Noble Sissie¹s orchestra...In 1933, after he and Tommy Ladnier had disbanded the New Orleans Feetwarmers, Bechet decided that the depression made a musician¹s career too hazardous adn opened a tailor¹s shop in Harlem. Luckily music proved too strong and a year later he rejoined Noble Sissie¹s orchestra. Now, after years of comparative neglect, Bechet has achieved a fame commensurate with his stature as a musician.
Bechet¹s divergence from the traditional pattern of New Orleans jazz was hastened when he started playing the soprano saxophone as well as the clarinet. This instrument¹s wide brazen tone allied to Bechet¹s aggresive musical personality caused him to dominate every musical group with which he played. Just as Louis Armstrong elbowed his way out of the New Orleans ensemble, his solos growing increasingly ornate and individual, so Bechet broke up the normal balance of the music, playing with such ferocity and power that only a very few trumpet players could challenge him.
Terser than Bechet in his phrasing, but a soloist of outstanding originality, Vic Dickenson belongs to a slightly later generation. Born in Xenia, Ohio on August 6, 1906, he began by playing on an old wood-scrolled organ. His brother was learning the trombone but lost interest, so Vic took over the discarded instrument. He remembers accompanying gramophone records, particularly those by Mamie Smith¹s Jazz Hounds, saying with a smile, ³I played with all the big bands back in those days.²
For a time Vic worked with his father, a plastering contractor, until he sprained his back while lifting a hood. Soon afterwards the family moved to Columbus where Vic, now sixteen years old, began playing with a local band, the Night Owls. Professional jobs followed, first with Don Phillips in Madison, Wisconsin and later with Leonard Gay's twelve-piece orchestra. Speed Webb's band, when Vic joined it in 1929, included Teddy Wilson on piano and the brothers Roy and Joe Eldridge. In his next job, with Zach Whyte, Vic tried his hand at arranging, helped by Sy Oliver who played trumpet in the band.
During a spell in Kansas City, Vic worked with Thamon Hayes, who was directing a Benny Moten unit, as well as playing with Blanche Calloway--Cab's sister--whose fourteen-piece band was well-known in the early Thirties. In 1936 he joined Claude Hopkin's at New York's Roseland Ballroom, staying with him until Benny Carter returned from Europe in 1939 and offered him a job with his new band. A few months later Dickenson replaced Benny Morton in Count Basie's orchestra, but within a year he was back with Benny Carter.
It was during the summer of 1941 that Dickenson started playing small band jazz once more. Sidney Bechet was forming a group to play just outside New York and asked Vic to join him. This band also included Manzie Johnson on drums and Henry Goodwin on trumpet. Dickenson has described that lazy summer, when he spent his time playing draughts and drinking the local apple-jack while Bechet solemnly rowed himself backward in small circles on the lake.
This record finds Sidney Bechet and Vic Dickenson united once again, the occasion being a session at Boston's Storyville during the afternoon of Sunday, October 25, 1953. Claude Hopkins, the regular pianist with Bechet at that time, was unable to attend the session because of illness and his place was taken by George Wein. Bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Buzzy Drootin completed the group.
Spencer WIlliams' Basin Street Blues, Fat's Waller's Honeysuckle Rose and two good show tunes, Lady Be Good and Crazy Rhythm all allow plenty of opportuntiy for extended improvisation by both front-line soloists.
RECORDING: Recorded at The Storyville Club, Copley Square Hotel, Boston, October 25, 1953
ARTISTS: Sidney Bechet(soprano saxophone),Vic Dickenson (trombone), George Wein (piano), Jimmy Woode (bass),Buzzy Drootin (drums)
TRACKS: C Jam Blues, Crazy Rhythm, Jazz Me Blues, Basin Street Blues, Indiana, Bugle Blues, Honeysuckle Rose, On The Sunny Side Of The Street, Oh! Lady Be Good